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I've always been saddened by the fact that we're so far away from other large cosmological entities that it's almost guaranteed that we'll never venture beyond our solar system and visit other stars.

The flipside to this, is that we appear to live in a bit of a 'The Shire' and the distances mean we don't have to deal with stars going supernova or showers of meteors raining down on our heads with any sort of meaningful frequency.

However, I'm equally fascinated and overjoyed at just how much looking around at the wider Universe we're managing to get done considering that, relatively speaking, our window of observation as a species is akin to a polaroid snapshot from a infinitesimally small fraction of this period.

"it's almost guaranteed that we'll never venture beyond our solar system"

I like to think that it's almost guaranteed that we will venture beyond our solar system - it might take hundreds or years (or maybe thousands) but, in one form or another, we'll get there.

[I suspect that transporting big lumps of meat about probably isn't the way ahead - travelling in an uploaded form seems far more likely (e.g. Greg Egan's Diaspora).]

A pessimistic way of thinking (apologies for my disposition on this entrepreneurial board) is that the odds of being born into an era with the highest population ever to live, are just that: the highest probability.

That we're going to solve the energy crisis, and that this era isn't a brief spike in human population, burning at breakneck speed through the very finite 'windfall' of exploiting found reserves of fossil fuels seems unlikely.

But someone born in ancient Rome could say the same thing about an era with the highest population.

But we now know there's more to mankind than Rome.

I'm not sure that logic is valid (and thanks to splat for linking a more expanded version of the argument), because the probability of you being born when you were born is now 1. I'm not sure it's valid to try to do logic based on using that as a random variable.

I don't think it's sensible to talk about probability when you only have a single data point and no clue whatsoever of the distribution involved. (E.g. is the human into which you're born actually random as that argument assumes?)

7 billion are alive today, while 100 billion have ever lived.

haven't i already beat the odds of being born amoung the 93 billion who lived before today?

We have mostly solved the energy crisis, in the sense that we have the technical means to supply ourselves with power we can use, and in a sustainable way. Implementing that solution will require rather sweeping political and economic upheaval though, so the question remains for how much longer we'll continue to fuck the Earth's ecosystem before we get around to it (if indeed we ever get around to it at all).

As usual, mankind's biggest problems arise from our inability to scale social interaction well, not from technical prowess (or lack thereof).

Depending on whether "we" means people in a ship, or probes that we send out to do the exploring for us, "we" are already venturing beyond our solar system.


The article reminded me exactly of Diaspora, but more about the gamma-ray burst in the plot. If you haven't read the book and are interested in this sort of thing, I highly recommend it.

Our closest star is 4.3 light years away. If we could fly 3 times faster than our current space probes, we'd get there in 430 years. Not good for a small crew, but maybe a generation ship.

And this is excluding the tremendous gains in propulsion technology we're bound to have in the next 100 years. Maybe not even faster-than-light technology, but even flying at 0.4c would give us great reach among the stars.

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